You may remember Jef “With One F” Rouner from his stint in the utterly unique The Black Math Experiment and its TMZ-worthy song “You Cannot Kill David Arquette”. After BME called it quits, Jef wrote a novel (see reviews here and here) and writes about music for 29-95.com and Houston Press (in particular, some interesting articles about the music featured in HBO’s True Blood series and the city’s goth scene). Well, Jef With One F–along with his BME cohort Bill Curtner–is back with a brand new band, The Ghost of Cliff Burton. The duo recently filmed a video for its debut single, “Alive,” and expects to release an album later in the year.
I recently asked the band about its music, and plans for the upcoming album (The Maybe Laser), more videos, and Metallica.
Houston Calling: What prompted you guys to start recording as a new band?
Jef With One F: You ask it like there was some kind of choice involved. There isn’t. We don’t do this because it’s fun, though it is, or because we enjoy it, though we do. We make the music we make because we’re compelled to do. We’d sing it while kicking out the rhythms in a padded cell if that were the only option available. We started The Ghost of Cliff Burton because not doing it hurt like withdrawal.
Bill Curtner: During our time in BME, it was apparent that Jef and I would be working together for some time. We are kindred spirits. And we are always looking for new ways to express ourselves. When BME came to its end, we just picked up and kept going. This group is the next evolution of our art.
HC: The Black Math Experiment was pretty experimental and crossed a lot of genres. What’s the music of The Ghost of Cliff Burton like? What can listeners expect from the album?
Jef With One F: Keeton Coffman of the 71s asked me what we sounded like. I said, “We sound like fuck all,” and I stand by that. We’ve been listening to a lot of Beck, Early Ministry, various Nick Cave projects, Bill Hicks, Billy Nayer Show, and Gorillaz if that helps you. Myself, I’m very into spoken word set over danceable rhythms, but that’s still only a portion of what we’re doing. I still consider it pop music, regardless.
Curtner: TGoCb has been artistically liberating for both Jef and myself. There are elements of hip hop, electronica, industrial, alt rock, and even some world music. But, as always, we filter all genres with pop hooks and witty banter.
HC: The first single, “Alive,” has one of those choruses that just sticks with you. Nicely done. And the video adds a nice visual impact — how did you guys come up with the idea for taking the time to create a video for your first song as a band?
Jef With One F: Thank you. The chorus is Bill’s and he’s got a knack for the catchy ones. Making a music video has never been easier. We shot the whole thing on our iPhones and it was done within days. Our idea is to replace the concept of live shows with videos, vlogs, and journal entries. That way we can connect with an audience on a deeply one on one level at their convenience. Eventually we’ll put together a live show, probably for the summer festivals in Houston, but here in the beginning we prefer to get to know you digitally.
Curtner: The video is an homage to 80’s/ 90’s perfume commercials and college art films…
HC: Jef–and no, I’m not stalking but I read your book–you come from a background of theater/drama. Is any of that playing into The Ghost of Cliff Burton’s music?
Jef With One F: I know you’re not stalking me because you haven’t died of boredom. Ironically, in light of what I just said in regards to live performances, every song is very theatrically centered in my mind. With few exceptions, when I write a song I visualize myself performing it almost as a one-man play. I imagine interacting with an audience through what I’m saying like Bill Hicks, or Henry Rollins, or John Waters, just with song. I’d like to be the pop music equivalent of those guys.
Curtner: Hey, I was in theater in high school and college. I acted and directed. Also did my time in band and choir.
HC: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
Jef With One F: The old joke is always, “Remember the tune from Titanic? Nothing like that at all.” But if you insist in a tweet style description I’d describe it as pop music for people who read Neil Gaiman and have no idea who Snooki is.
Curtner: The Ghost of Cliff Burton is one part fun, one part weird. We are tour guides to an alternate universe.
HC: Do you plan on sending any of this music to David Arquette? He might need a pick me up…
Jef With One F: I haven’t heard from the Boss since I finished the book… don’t even know if he’s read it. He’s gone somewhat underground and isn’t nearly as accessible as he used to be. I don’t even know where I’d send the CD at this point honestly. I hope he’s doing well. My affection for the man remains as strong as ever.
HC: What about Metallica? Any of you particular fans of the band’s music? Why or why not? Have you heard anything off that new Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration?
Jef With One F: Originally we were going to call the band the Tonberries, but someone beat us to the punch. The current name is a joke theory of mine about dead rock stars having to work their way out of purgatory by guiding bands to stardom. Think of it like It’s a Wonderful Life vs. Almost Famous. The name has already pissed off a few Metallica fans we’ve met. To them I say, “Feel free to start a band called The Ghost of Ian Curtis.” I won’t give you a hard time about it.
I love Metallica, especially the deep cuts off of the Black Album like “The God That Failed.” I’m also one of the few people I know who like what they’ve heard from Loutallica. I think it sounds exactly like what you’d think it would, and anyone who disagrees is just bitching.
Curtner: I am a massive Metallica fan. I was lucky enough to see them open for GnR in 1992. Incredible concert. As for their new collab, Lulu, the first song was not…good. I hope this was just a throwaway. The idea of the metal giants collaborating with a underground rock legend sounds incredible on paper…or a screen.
HC: You don’t plan on playing any live shows, right? I take it you’re concentrating more on the video and social media aspect of spreading the word about your music. Plus, you’ve definitely slogged it out booking and playing gigs…
Jef With One F: I work two jobs and have a toddler. Bill’s a single dad. Our time is a diminished resource, and we have to get as much use out of that resource as we can. Putting out flyers, rehearsing, and spending 8 hours at a club is just not that useful to us at this point. I don’t think we’ll build an audience that way, at least not at this time. Look at someone like Mary Sarah. She built her audience through Twitter, playing shows only where it counts. Now she’s poised to be the next Carrie Underwood. That’s a modern model we can get behind.
Curtner: One of our goals is to try and promote this group without using the same tactics used in previous outings. Instead of putting together a live band, rehearsing, promoting and performing, we feel that music videos and social media can be equally as effective. That doesn’t mean we won’t perform. There is a cool idea for a private performance in the near future. We also do not plan to release our music on compact discs.
HC: What significant change (or changes) in the music industry has most affected your music or your intent of being in a band?
Jef With One F: The following axiom, which you may hereby refer to as the First Law With One F: Any music business model is on the decline at its peak. The reach of independent artists and their ability to record, tour, play, film video, etc. has never been greater. There are millions of us out there throwing every idea possible against the wall. Some work, some don’t, but all of us are innovating faster than the people at the top. It’s a smaller piece of the pie, but more of us are getting to eat it.
Curtner: The affordability and accessibility of the home studio has really helped redefine not only our work ethic but, our creativity as well. Online promotion and digital sales/downloads are just one more set of tools. Hard work and perseverance always come first. The days of limitless money in the music industry are long gone. There are many bands that I listen to that do not tour or perform live because they have day jobs. The passion of making music will always be there. Just not between the hours of 8-5.
HC: What’s next for The Ghost Of Cliff Burton? More videos?
Jef With One F: Definitely. We’ll be filming at Avant Garden on October 23 for our tune about an armless lesbian rapist called “The Annexation of Puerto Rico.” That one will star local model Scarlett St. Vitus. We’ve also got a video that will serve as the sequel to “Evil Wizard Jesus” coming soon. That one is actually being animated by Ibis Fernandez. We’ll be releasing a cover EP for free in probably January. It will be Lyle Lovett and Marvin Gaye tunes, though I may see if I can talk Bill into letting me slip Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Slayer’s “Seasons in the Abyss” on there as well. We don’t plan to let more than a month or so go by without at least a new song or video. You’ll be hearing from us a lot.
Curtner: In November we will be releasing our debut album. The next video will be shot in late October for a November release as well. In the new year look for some more videos and not one but, two EPs.
Thanks to Jef With One F and Bill Curtner for taking the time out to answer these questions for Houston Calling.
Here’s the video for “Alive”: